Your Rights During a DUI Stop

Under federal and state law in Pennsylvania, police officers can stop vehicles when they have a reasonable suspicion that the drivers have committed traffic offenses, are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that they have committed other violations of the law. Police officers are allowed to investigate drivers whom they believe to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, they must also respect the constitutional rights of the drivers during traffic stops. DiCindio Law believes that it is important for you to understand the police officers’ rights as well as your own during a DUI stop so that you know what to do and actions to avoid.

What actions by police officers are allowed?

A police officer cannot stop a vehicle based on a hunch. Instead, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver may be driving under the influence or has committed some other type of legal violation. An officer can pull you over for a different traffic violation and subsequently develop a reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence. In that circumstance, the officer can investigate both the reason for your original stop and whether you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Police officers may do the following things when they suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol:

  • Ask the driver about drug or alcohol use
  • Ask the driver about his or her driving
  • Ask the driver to submit to standardized field sobriety tests
    In some cases, search the vehicle
  • After developing probable cause, arrest the driver for a DUI
  • Ask the driver to submit to a breath or blood test to check the blood alcohol concentration

While police officers have many rights to gather evidence and investigate what happened to build probable cause for a DUI arrest, they also have some limitations. Police officers must follow specific laws and procedures when they conduct stops and investigations. Your attorney might review the stop and investigation to make sure that the officer followed the correct protocols at all points.

SFSTs and BAC tests

Police officers have the right to ask you to submit to roadside tests when they suspect that you are driving while impaired. These tests are designed to help officers determine whether you are under the influence. However, you are not required to agree to take roadside tests and can politely refuse. If you do agree to take the tests, the officer must follow the standards that have been developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, officers commonly make mistakes when they administer the SFSTs. If your lawyer identifies mistakes made by the officer in how he or she administered the SFSTs, he or she might challenge the tests and the evidence gathered as a result of them. Like the SFSTs, you also have the right to refuse to give a sample on the portable breath test device at the roadside.

If you are arrested for a DUI and are asked to submit a blood or breath sample for chemical testing at the police station, jail, or hospital, Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws state that you do not have the right to refuse those tests. If you do, you might face stiffer DUI penalties and driver’s license consequences.

Your rights at a DUI checkpoint

DUI checkpoints are legal in Pennsylvania. However, multiple laws govern how the police can establish them and operate them. A skilled DUI defense lawyer can review the actions of the officers to check whether they followed the laws governing DUI checkpoints in Pennsylvania.

While officers need reasonable suspicion to stop drivers in most cases, they do not need to have reasonable suspicion to pull people over at checkpoints. Instead, the officers stop drivers using a predetermined method of random selection. For example, the officers might stop every 10th vehicle. If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the officer can talk to you, check for signs of intoxication, check your license and insurance information, and glance inside of your vehicle. Most drivers decide to submit to the interaction so that they can go on their way.

If you do not want to answer the officer’s questions, you can assert your constitutional rights to remain silent, to refuse to consent to a search of your vehicle, and to have an attorney. You will still need to provide your license, insurance, and registration information, however. If you choose to assert your rights or decide to comply with the officer’s investigation, make sure that you are polite. If you refuse to participate in the officer’s investigation, expect that you will likely be placed into custody. If you do choose to comply with the officer’s investigation, the officer may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests if he or she believes that you are driving while impaired.

Avoiding DUI checkpoints

Under the law, checkpoints must be planned in advance and must be published. Leading up to a checkpoint, the police must have clear signs to notify drivers. If you see signs warning you of a checkpoint ahead, you are legally allowed to turn off of the road onto a side street. However, making a U-turn is not advisable. If you do that, you will likely be stopped.

Talk to an attorney at DiCindio Law

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should get legal help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Working with a knowledgeable attorney might help you to secure a better outcome for your case. A West Chester DUI Lawyer at DiCindio Law can review how the police conducted the stop of your vehicle and the subsequent investigation. If the officers made mistakes, your attorney can challenge the admissibility of the evidence against you. Request a consultation today by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

Does hiring a DUI lawyer make a difference?

If you have been charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania, you might wonder whether you need to hire a DUI lawyer or if you can handle the case on your own. There are several reasons why you should seek legal advice from an attorney when you are facing drunk driving charges. An experienced lawyer might help you to minimize the penalties that you might face and to secure a more favorable outcome. Understanding when you should retain a lawyer can help you to avoid jail and could potentially help you to avoid losing your driving privileges. The DUI Defense lawyers at DiCindio Law can help you to understand the options that you have.

Why hiring a DUI lawyer is important

Being arrested for drunk driving is serious. A DUI is a criminal offense that could result in severe penalties and having a criminal record. Depending on whether it is your first offense, a second or subsequent offense, and your blood alcohol concentration, you could face a sentence to jail or prison, lose your driving privilege, be assessed stiff fines, and face other penalties. Being convicted of a DUI can also cause problems with your job and your future ability to find employment. If you caused a DUI accident that injured or killed someone else, you might also have to deal with psychological trauma on top of the penalties.

A DUI charge is not a minor traffic violation. While it is possible for people to handle some types of legal issues on their own, a drunk driving arrest should prompt you to seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer who understands how to handle your case. An experienced DUI attorney understands the drunk driving laws and the types of potential defenses that might be raised. He or she might challenge specific aspects of your case because of his or her knowledge about blood or breath testing, DUI stops, standardized field sobriety tests, and others. Because of the knowledge and legal experience of a DUI attorney, he or she might be able to help to protect your driving privileges and to secure a reduction of your charges.

Hiring a DUI lawyer for a first DUI offense

Some people think that they do not need to hire a DUI attorney to represent them for a first DUI offense. They might think that because they do not have criminal records, the courts will be more lenient. However, the DUI laws in Pennsylvania provide for stringent penalties based on your blood alcohol concentration at the time of your arrest. If you are convicted, your penalties will fall within the range given for your BAC level regardless of the fact that you previously had a spotless record.

If you are convicted of a first-offense DUI with a BAC of 0.10% or higher, you will also face an automatic suspension of your license. An experienced lawyer might help you to secure a plea to a lesser offense or assist you with obtaining an occupational limited license so that you can get to your job.

People who hire private DUI attorneys are likelier to secure better outcomes to their charges than people who are represented by public defenders or who try to represent themselves. Public defenders often have huge caseloads and might not have sufficient time to spend on your case. If you represent yourself, you may not have the requisite knowledge to identify problems with the state’s case against you. Prosecutors are less likely to extend favorable plea offers to people who represent themselves. A private attorney may have more time to investigate your case and to build a strong defense case for you. This might help you to obtain a better offer or to win dismissal of your charges.

Dealing with aggravating factors

If your case has aggravating factors, you can face enhanced charges and more serious penalties. Some examples of aggravating factors include a repeat offense, an accident causing property damage, injuries, or fatalities, driving under the influence with a child in your vehicle, and others. If your DUI case involves these types of aggravating factors, hiring a lawyer may be critical for your future. An attorney might work to gather mitigating evidence to try to secure a better outcome for you.

Obvious reasons when you should retain a lawyer

If you did not drink anything and were arrested for a DUI, hiring a good DUI defense attorney is very important. A lawyer can review the circumstances of your stop and arrest and the testing that was performed. You should never assume that you will win your case simply because you are innocent. A lawyer can challenge how the standardized field sobriety tests were administered, the reason for your stop, and any inaccurate breath test results.

How an attorney can help

When you hire a lawyer to defend you against DUI charges, your attorney can help you to prepare for court and to understand what to expect. A lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf and file motions to challenge certain types of evidence if there were problems in how the police investigated your case. In some cases, a lawyer might secure a plea to a non-DUI traffic offense or win a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.

While hiring a lawyer might cost money, having the help of an experienced lawyer might help you to obtain a better resolution to the charges against you. If you can afford to hire an attorney, choose someone who is experienced in defending people against DUI charges. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law is an experienced criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor. This experience allows him to have insight into how prosecutors build cases against people who are charged with driving under the influence so that he can anticipate the arguments that might be raised. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by submitting your information with our contact form online.

Do I have to take a breath, blood, or urine test if I’m stopped for driving under the influence?

When people are pulled over because of an officer’s suspicion that they might be driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances, the officer will conduct an investigation. The investigation might include officer questioning, observations, and field sobriety tests. If the officer develops probable cause to believe that a person has been driving under the influence, he or she might take the person into custody and transport him or her to the police station for further testing of the breath, blood, or urine. Some Pennsylvanians think that it is better to refuse chemical testing so that the police will not have evidence to use against them. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law believes that you should know about refusing breath, blood, or urine tests in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s implied consent law

Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547, people who drive vehicles in Pennsylvania are deemed to have implicitly given consent for their breath, blood, or urine to be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs in situations in which police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that they have been driving under the influence. If a driver refuses to submit to testing, the police officer can seek a search warrant to get a blood sample. While it is not a criminal offense to refuse a test, there are civil penalties attached to refusal. People who are convicted of a DUI offense for which they refused testing will also face stiffer penalties.

Refusing to take a preliminary breath test

If a police officer thinks that you might be driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer might ask you to perform several field sobriety tests, including the walk and turn, one-legged stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. These are physical and cognitive performance tests that are conducted at the roadside. The officer might also ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test. This is a roadside test in which people are asked to blow into a portable device so that the officer can determine whether they have alcohol in their systems. The implied consent law does not apply to standardized field sobriety tests or preliminary breath tests. You do have the right to refuse the SFSTs and the PBT. However, if an officer has other indications that you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including the smell of alcohol, your speech, bloodshot eyes, and your appearance, the officer might take you into custody and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test at the police station.

Breathalyzer test at the police station

If you either refuse a PBT or take one with results that indicate the possible presence of alcohol, the police officer will likely take you to the police station for further testing. You do not have the right to refuse this second chemical test. Most people are asked to submit to breathalyzer tests at the law enforcement agency. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you will face civil penalties and stiffer criminal penalties for the DUI offense. The breathalyzer test is administered by a trained police officer who must follow a specific protocol for the test. He or she will have you blow into a machine, and the machine will analyze your breath and print the results out. If the test shows the presence of alcohol, the penalties that you might face will depend on the blood alcohol concentration that is revealed by the breathalyzer test and on whether you have any prior DUI convictions within the last 10 years.

Blood tests

In some counties in Pennsylvania, police officers transport DUI suspects to a hospital to have their blood drawn by phlebotomists. Police officers might also file affidavits for search warrants to obtain blood samples when they have probable cause to believe that the people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An officer might ask for a blood test when a person submits a PBT result that shows no alcohol in his or her system, but the officer has probable cause to believe that the person is under the influence of other substances. Like a breath test, people in Pennsylvania are deemed to have given implied consent to a blood test when they drive in the state.

Urine tests

Urine tests are rarely used in Pennsylvania DUI cases because they are unreliable. When you submit to a urine test, it will show the presence of metabolites without differentiating between them and the active drug in your system. Urine tests are generally not used in cases involving alcohol, but they might be used in DUI-drug cases if a blood test is not available.

Penalties for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test

The civil penalties for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test in Pennsylvania include the following:

  • Automatic 12-month suspension for a first refusal
  • Automatic 18-month suspension if you have a prior refusal, a prior DUI conviction, or another similar prior offense
  • Restoration fee of $500 up to $2,000
  • Ignition interlock device installed
  • Refusal can be used as evidence against you in court in your DUI case

People who refuse chemical tests may also face the same penalties of the highest BAC DUI if they are convicted.

Get help from an experienced DUI defense attorney

Understanding the consequences of refusing to submit to chemical testing is important so that you can weigh your options. If you are charged with a DUI, an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law can review the test that was performed and potentially identify problems with how it was conducted. Your lawyer might also look at the circumstances that surrounded your arrest to determine whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause to arrest you. Depending on what happened, a lawyer might be able to win suppression of some or all of the evidence against you. Contact DiCindio Law to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our online contact form.

Can I get a DUI for sleeping drunk in my car?

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI if you drive, operate, or are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. What constitutes being in actual physical control of a vehicle is determined by the totality of the circumstances. Depending on several factors, you can be convicted of a DUI after sleeping drunk in your car. A DUI attorney at DiCindio Law can review the evidence and explain whether you might want to fight the charges or negotiate a favorable plea offer.

Frequently, this type of DUI offense occurs late at night in parking lots of bars, nightclubs, or along the roadside of streets. However, even if you thought that you would sleep it off in your car, a police officer might still charge you with a DUI.

Factors That Might Result In A DUI Charge While Sleeping In Your Vehicle

An officer might charge you with a DUI after finding you asleep in your vehicle based on the following types of evidence:

  • Sleeping in the driver’s seat
  • Keys in the ignition with the car turned on
  • Appearing as if you had the intent to drive
  • Parked on the side of the road alone while sleeping drunk
  • Lights on with the engine running while in park

Being asleep in the driver’s seat might not be enough to secure a conviction for a DUI by itself. However, if there are other indications that you either drove to the position where your vehicle is found or had the intent to drive, you might be convicted of a DUI even though the officer did not see you driving. For example, if you were asleep in the driver’s seat, had your keys in the ignition, and had the vehicle and the lights turned on, you might be convicted of a DUI even though the engine was not running. That was what happened in Commonwealth v. Winowitch, J-S58023-18 (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 16, 2018).

In that case, a man was found asleep in the driver’s seat of his vehicle with the keys in the ignition in the on position. The engine was not running, but the lights were on. The man’s vehicle was found in the parking lot of a ballfield close to a nearby bar, and he was parked in a crooked way across the lines of the parking space. The man also admitted that he had made a withdrawal of cash at the bar two hours before the officer found him sleeping. After the man was convicted, he appealed. The Superior Court upheld the decision of the Court of Common Pleas and found that under the totality of the circumstances, he could be found guilty of a DUI.

Where in the car that you were sleeping and where your vehicle was found are important. You might be less likely to be charged for this type of DUI if you were sleeping in your car’s backseat without the keys in the ignition. You might especially be less likely to be charged if you were sleeping in the backseat with your keys in the glovebox while your vehicle was still parked in the bar parking lot where you spent your evening. If an officer still charged you, your attorney might be able to get the prosecutor to dismiss the case.

Why Sleeping In Your Vehicle While Drunk Can Be Grounds For An Arrest

Many people wrongly believe that they cannot be charged or convicted of a DUI when the police did not witness them driving and simply found them sleeping drunk in their vehicles. The police can charge you for a DUI even if you were parked and sleeping in your vehicle, depending on the circumstances. Your attorney might be able to secure a dismissal of the charges based on a lack of probable cause by the officer, however. Your attorney will review the specific details of how and where you were found in the vehicle, the position of the keys, and other circumstances to try to get the prosecutor to dismiss the charges.

The prosecutor does not need actual evidence of driving to prove his or her case against you. Instead, he or she can prove a DUI charge with circumstantial evidence even though the officer did not see you driving the vehicle.

Get Help From An Experienced DUI Defense Attorney In West Chester

If you were charged with a DUI after a police officer found you sleeping in your vehicle, you should get legal help as quickly as possible. It may be easier for your DUI defense attorney to get the charges dismissed early in the case rather than later. An experienced attorney from DiCindio Law can rely on current case law and the circumstances of your case to build a strong defense to your charges. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

Common ways to fight a DUI or DWI charge

If you are charged with a DUI involving alcohol or drugs in Pennsylvania, you will face multiple penalties. You might face a suspension of your driving privileges, stiff fines, jail time, and other penalties. You should get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law for help with defending against the charges against you. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, it may be possible to defend against the allegations and to win a dismissal of the charges against you. Your lawyer will analyze everything to decide whether you should fight your case through trial or should try to negotiate a plea to settle the charges against you. Some of the most common defenses to DUI charges in Pennsylvania are detailed below.

Lack of reasonable suspicion for your stop

In Pennsylvania, police officers must have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a violation has been committed by a driver before they can stop them. Reasonable suspicion is not simply a hunch but instead must be based on objective facts. If an officer stopped you because he or she thought that you looked suspicious, but you had not committed any traffic offense, your West Chester DUI Attorney might be able to get the charges against you dismissed because of the unconstitutional stop.

Lack of probable cause for your arrest

After an officer stops you, he or she will investigate to determine whether there is probable cause to place you under arrest. Probable cause is more than reasonable suspicion but is less than the burden of proof that the prosecutor will have in proving your guilt at trial. The officer might try to build probable cause through his or her observations of your appearance, speech, and motor control. He or she might ask you to submit to standardized field sobriety tests and ask you to submit a preliminary breath test. All of these activities are geared toward building probable cause to support your arrest. If the officer did not have probable cause, your attorney may file a motion challenging the arrest and the admissibility of any chemical tests that were performed afterward. If your lawyer wins, the prosecutor will not be able to use the evidence against you. This could result in a plea offer to lesser charges or a dismissal of the case against you.

Improperly conducted roadblocks and checkpoints

The police are allowed to conduct DUI roadblocks and checkpoints. However, there are specific rules for how they may be conducted. Any checkpoint or roadblock must be announced in advance through the media and signs. It must be stationary, and the administration must decide to conduct the checkpoint rather than the police officers deciding to do it themselves. The decision about who to stop must be objectively based rather than based on an officer’s decision. For example, a roadblock might be used to stop every sixth car that passes through but not to stop someone that an officer simply wants to check out. Finally, the stop must be brief, and the officers are not allowed to search the vehicle. If you were stopped and arrested at a DUI checkpoint or roadblock, your lawyer will review how the DUI checkpoint was planned and conducted to see if it complied with the rules.

Problems with the breath test

Breath tests are the most frequently used type of chemical testing in DUI cases. However, breath tests may have several problems, including the following:

  • Tests conducted improperly
  • Gastric reflux within a 20-minute window
  • Instrument problems
  • Failing to observe the person before the test

If the machine is not calibrated correctly, the results may be inaccurate. Other problems can also happen. Your lawyer can request records from the police department to check its calibration and certification. He or she might also ask for information about the officer’s certifications and investigate any problems that occurred. If there were problems, your lawyer might challenge the breath test results to try to get them suppressed.

Residual alcohol in your mouth

A breathalyzer tests the contents of your breath from the deep lung tissue. However, you can have residual alcohol in your mouth that can distort the results. For example, if you suffer from acid reflux, have burped or vomited, or have alcohol-soaked particles trapped in your teeth, your breath test results can be falsely high.

Following a ketogenic or Atkins diet

Many people follow low-carb diets to try to lose weight. Diets such as Atkins or the ketogenic diet try to get people to enter a state called ketosis so that their bodies will burn fat. Ketosis causes your body to produce excess ketones, which can cause you to fail a blood-alcohol breath test even if you have not been drinking. When ketones are eliminated in your breath, they are converted to isopropyl alcohol. Breath tests cannot distinguish between ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. If you are on a ketogenic diet, tell your attorney.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, including hypoglycemia and diabetes, can also cause your body to produce isopropyl alcohol similar to a ketogenic or Atkins diet. When fat stores in your body are burned for energy, ketones are produced and can cause falsely high BAC results on breath tests.

Problems with blood testing

Like breath tests, blood tests are not infallible. Several factors can taint your blood test results, including the following:

  • Improper storage of your sample
  • Blood contamination
  • Blood fermentation
  • Improper analysis
  • Technicians without the proper training or certification

Your attorney might request that your second vial of blood is submitted to a test to determine the accuracy of your test results. He or she might also look at records of how your blood sample was stored and request information about the chain of custody. Finally, he or she might look at how your blood was drawn and the certifications and training of the technician who performed the analysis. If there were problems, your blood test may be suppressed.

Problems with the field sobriety tests

While the standardized field sobriety tests are supposed to show indicators of impairment, they are not completely accurate. Only three of the tests have data to support them. Another problem is that the SFSTs must also be administered precisely and scored correctly. Many law enforcement officers make mistakes in administering the field sobriety tests. People also mess up on these tests because of such things as a lack of coordination, footwear problems, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, bad weather, and intimidation. Some people have medical conditions that cause nystagmus to naturally occur in their eyes. Your attorney might carefully review any video of your SFSTs and your medical records if you have a medical condition that affects your eyes.

Lack of impairment

In some cases, a person will show little or no impairment yet have a BAC that is high and should cause impairment. This type of case might indicate that something is wrong with your test, and the evidence should not be trusted. If there is a disconnect between your observed level of impairment and your BAC level, your attorney will investigate to figure out what went wrong with the test process.

You were not driving, operating a vehicle, or in actual physical control

To convict you of a DUI, the prosecutor will be required to prove that you were driving or operating a vehicle or that you were in actual physical control of it at the time of your stop. If an officer did not see you driving or found you sleeping in the backseat of your car when it is off without access to the keys, the prosecutor will have a difficult time proving that you were driving under the influence of alcohol.

Radio or electric interference

Electromagnetic and radio frequency interference can cause DUI chemical tests to provide falsely high BAC results. This is because electronic devices can interfere with the tests. While the prosecutor might argue that the breathalyzer machine has an RFI or EFI detector, the detectors on the machines are not reliable. This type of defense might be difficult to prove, but your attorney might consider it if a potential source of interference emits electromagnetic or radio waves in a specific frequency band that the detectors can’t detect.

Challenges based on the BAC error rate

Even if the police officer did not make mistakes when he or she administered your BAC test, the BAC tests that are used in Pennsylvania still have error rates. The error rates of Pennsylvania DUI tests range from 0.005% to 0.02%. If your BAC tested from 0.08% to 0.099%, your attorney might challenge the results based on the error rates. This is because your BAC might have been lower at the time than the minimum of 0.08% under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(b).

Misconduct by the police

If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your charges might still be dismissed if the police officers engaged in misconduct. Police officers must follow proper procedures and must write accurate reports, comply with the rules that govern investigations, and testify truthfully. If the police officer ignores the procedures or fabricates evidence, the evidence that was unlawfully obtained or fabricated might be tossed out of court. If the misconduct was severe, the prosecutor might dismiss the charges against you.

Auto-brewery syndrome

A rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome has made the headlines across the U.S. in DUI cases. People might develop this condition as a side effect of diseases, including Crohn’s disease, short bowel syndrome, and diabetes. People who eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates and who also overuse antibiotics might develop this syndrome.

If you have auto-brewery syndrome, your gut can produce alcohol by fermenting carbohydrates that you have ingested. This is because of the presence of yeast in your small intestine. If you had a very high BAC and had not consumed any alcohol, your lawyer might ask for you to be tested for this condition. If you have it, your lawyer might get the court and the prosecutor to agree to dismiss your charges. Fortunately, this condition can be treated so that it will not cause further problems in the future.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Being charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania can be scary. However, you might have one of these or other defenses available to you. An experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law can review all of the evidence in your case to identify the defenses that might be raised. Contact us to schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Commercial DUI regulations

In Pennsylvania, people who have commercial driver’s licenses must follow a much stricter standard than other drivers under state and federal laws for driving while impaired. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established regulations governing people who drive buses, commercial trucks, and other commercial vehicles. If you have a CDL and drive for a living, the stakes will be much higher for you than they are for other drivers. If you are charged with a DUI as a commercial driver, you can face both criminal penalties and consequences to your career. DiCindio Law represents people who are facing CDL DUI charges and can talk to you about the options that you might have.

Who is covered by the FMCSA regulations about alcohol and drug use?

The FMCSA regulations about alcohol and drug use by commercial drivers govern both employers and drivers. Some examples of the parties that may be covered by the regulations include the following:

  • People and companies that own or lease commercial vehicles
  • Companies that assign routes to CDL drivers
  • Local, state, and federal governments
  • Civic organizations that transport passengers
  • Bus companies
  • Schools
  • Private motor carriers
  • For-hire motor carriers
  • Truck and bus drivers

Blood alcohol limits under the FMCSA regulations

The blood alcohol limits under the FMCSA regulations are 0.04% for commercial drivers. Most states, including Pennsylvania, have adopted the blood alcohol limits as established by the FMCSA for commercial truck drivers. Under federal regulations, commercial drivers are also not allowed to drive commercial vehicles within four hours of consuming alcohol.

Alcohol and drug tests for CDL drivers under FMCSA regulations

Under the FMCSA regulations, commercial drivers are required to submit to random alcohol tests. They are also required to submit to alcohol or drug tests after being involved in accidents or when there is a reasonable suspicion that they might be under the influence. Drivers might also be required to submit to alcohol or drug tests as a condition of returning to work after violating an alcohol or drug policy. Finally, drivers may be required to submit to drug tests as a condition of employment.

If a commercial driver refuses to submit to a breath or blood test after being stopped and arrested for a DUI, the driver will face harsher penalties. Under the FMCSA’s regulations, a refusal is treated the same way as being found guilty of a DUI.

Impact of a commercial DUI

While commercial drivers are subject to lower BAC thresholds, they can be charged with DUIs despite the fact that they are below the state’s legal limit for non-commercial drivers. A CDL DUI can also result in a longer period of disqualification than a traditional DUI. In Pennsylvania, a first DUI conviction as a CDL driver will result in a one-year disqualification.

Unlike other people who commit first DUI offenses, a CDL driver cannot avoid a driver’s license suspension by participating in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program. If a CDL driver has two convictions for major traffic offenses, including a DUI, he or she will be disqualified from driving with a CDL for life. Getting a DUI as a CDL driver can result in a loss of your career.

As a CDL holder, you must notify your employer within 30 days after you are convicted of any traffic violation. For example, if you are convicted of a DUI in your car while you were not working, you must tell your employer. If your DUI causes your license to be suspended, your employer cannot employ you as a driver during the suspension period. It can be very difficult for CDL drivers who have DUIs on their records to find work.

Penalties for a first-offense commercial DUI in Pennsylvania

Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(f), you can be convicted of a commercial DUI if you are a commercial driver with a BAC of 0.04% or higher within two hours of driving. However, if you are a school bus driver, the BAC limit is 0.02%. The penalties for a first-offense CDL DUI include the following:

  • Minimum two days up to six months in jail
  • Fines and charges from $500 to $5,000
  • Suspension of your regular driver’s license for at least 12 months
  • Disqualification of your CDL license for 12 months or three years for a HazMat endorsement

Other penalties that are required for a first-offense CDL DUI include attending an alcohol highway safety school, complying with any alcohol or drug treatment that might be ordered by the judge, and possibly completing 150 hours of community service.

Penalties for a second CDL DUI offense in Pennsylvania

If you are convicted of a second DUI offense as a CDL driver in Pennsylvania, you will face the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • Lifetime disqualification for a CDL license
  • 18-month suspension of your regular driver’s license
  • 90 days to five years in jail
  • Fine of $1,500 up to $10,000
  • 150 hours of community service
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Comply with alcohol and drug treatment if ordered

If you are convicted of a third DUI offense with a BAC of 0.16% or higher, it is a third-degree felony. All fourth convictions are also third-degree felonies that carry prison time.

Get help from an experienced CDL DUI attorney at DiCindio Law

If you are facing charges for a commercial DUI or have a CDL license and have been charged with a DUI in your car during your off-hours, it is crucial for you to talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Because of the high stakes involved for CDL drivers, you should not accept a plea without an attorney’s advice. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by filling out our contact form or calling us at 610.430.3535.

Are DUI/DWI roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints legal?

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI after you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint and found to be under the influence of alcohol. DUI checkpoints are controversial, but they are legal in Pennsylvania as long as they are conducted properly. DUI checkpoints are stationary and well-marked and are conducted by law enforcement officers over several hours. The officers do not need reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle at a checkpoint. Instead, they must rely on a predetermined standard for who to pull over when people drive through the checkpoint. If you have been charged with a DUI after being pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, the legal team at DiCindio Law in West Chester is available to help.

How DUI checkpoints work in Pennsylvania

DUI checkpoints must be planned by police administrators and not by the police officers themselves. The police must advertise the DUI checkpoint in the media and with signs. The administrators must choose an objective standard to determine which vehicles to stop. For example, the administrators might decide that every 10th vehicle will be stopped or use some other objective standard.

When you drive through a DUI checkpoint, the police might stop you if you meet the predetermined objective standard. If you are stopped, you must roll down your window to talk to the officer. He or she might ask you if you have been drinking. If you say yes, or if the officer makes observations that lead him or her to believe that you have been drinking, you might be asked to move forward to the second area of the checkpoint. Once you are there, you will be asked to perform field sobriety tests.

Under Pennsylvania law, you have the right to refuse the field sobriety tests and the preliminary breath test, which are tests that are performed at the roadside. You also do not have to answer questions other than requests for your license, name, insurance, and registration. If you are asked other questions, you can politely refuse to answer. Do not give any information beyond your basic contact details without talking to an attorney. Anything that you say to the police can be used by the prosecutor in the case against you. If you are arrested, you will be asked to submit to a breath or blood test. Unlike the field sobriety tests and the PBT, you do not have the right to refuse these post-arrest tests. Refusing to submit to a breath or blood test will result in a suspension of your license and other penalties. The prosecutor will also be allowed to use your refusal as evidence against you at trial.

If you can avoid a DUI checkpoint lawfully, you can do so. For example, if you see a sign for a checkpoint ahead and have an opportunity to turn off of the road onto a side street or into a parking lot, you can do it. The officers will not have any reason to stop you for legally turning around or turning onto a side street. However, they might still try. However, your attorney might successfully get any charges thrown out if you were stopped merely because an officer had a hunch that you might be driving drunk but has not developed reasonable suspicion to support the stop.

Are DUI checkpoints constitutional?

In Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the U.S. Supreme Court held that DUI checkpoints are constitutional and are not illegal searches and seizures. The court held that DUI checkpoint stops are lawful because the public’s interest outweighed the intrusion of the stop.

In Pennsylvania, DUI checkpoints are allowed under 75 Pa.C.S. § 6308(b). This statute authorizes police to stop vehicles either during a systematic program or when they have reasonable suspicion to believe a violation has occurred. Since the statute includes a reference to a systematic program, this statute has been interpreted as giving legal authority to establish DUI checkpoints in Pennsylvania. The state will have the burden of proof that the checkpoint was conducted constitutionally, however.

When is a DUI checkpoint legal?

For a DUI checkpoint to be legal in Pennsylvania, the police must adhere to guidelines that have been created that govern how the checkpoint must be established and conducted. To determine whether a specific checkpoint was legal, the court will look at how intrusive it was and whether the police followed specific procedures in a non-discriminatory way.

When a DUI checkpoint does not fully comply with the guidelines, an experienced DUI defense lawyer will file a motion to suppress all of the evidence that was gathered. Your lawyer might look at the following factors to determine whether the checkpoint and stop were constitutional:

  • Whether your stop was brief or lengthy
  • Whether the public was notified in advance of the checkpoint
  • Who was involved in deciding to set up the checkpoint
  • The statistical information and documents that were used to decide to conduct the DUI checkpoint at its location
  • Whether there is evidence that the checkpoint had prior administrative approval
  • Whether the police followed an objective guideline for determining which cars to stop
  • How the police conducted the checkpoint
  • Why the officer decided to request SFTs
  • The names and employment affiliations of all of the officers who participated in the checkpoint

After reviewing all of this information, your attorney will be able to provide you with guidance about your options.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Being stopped and arrested for a DUI at a DUI checkpoint can be frightening. If you are facing charges, an attorney from DiCindio Law can help you by determining whether the checkpoint was conducted lawfully. Your lawyer can then talk to you about the best way to proceed. Contact our law firm today to schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or calling us at 610.430.3535.

How long does it take to receive DUI charges in PA?

People who are arrested for DUI offenses normally are not provided with complaints by the arresting officers. A complaint is a document that lists the charges against people who are charged with crimes. Typically, an officer will wait until blood test results arrive or wait to file the complaint even though a breath test was administered. Instead, you might be told that your summons will be mailed to you when you are released from custody. The summons to appear tells you when to appear in court for your preliminary hearing and may not be mailed to you for several weeks after you receive the complaint. In some cases, a couple of months might pass before a driver receives the summons to appear and the complaint. If you have been arrested for a DUI, an attorney at DiCindio Law can explain what to expect next.

What happens when someone is arrested for a DUI?

When people are arrested for DUI offenses, they are transported to the police station and will be asked to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test. Breath tests use machines to analyze the amount of alcohol contained in a person’s breath. If the officer wants to obtain blood samples, the person will be transported to a hospital so that a phlebotomist or nurse can draw it. For blood testing, two vials of blood are drawn and sent to a laboratory. The analysis of blood samples can take three or more weeks, and the blood test results will not be provided until the analysis is completed.

Police officers rarely ask people to provide urine samples. However, an officer might request a urine sample for a DUI offense in which the officer suspects that drugs might be involved.

When you drive in Pennsylvania, you are considered to have given your implied consent to chemical testing when you are asked to do so by an officer. However, police officers still need to establish probable cause to arrest you and to take you to the police station to test your breath or to the hospital to get blood samples.

After your release from custody

After you are released from custody, you will be mailed a summons to appear and a complaint. Instead of waiting to talk to an attorney until after you receive these documents, it is a good idea to get help from a lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest. This will give your lawyer more time to conduct an initial investigation. Interviewing witnesses soon after the event occurred might help to make certain that they remember things accurately. If an accident happened, getting pictures of the scene and the damage can be important.

Time for the complaint and summons

In some cases, the complaint will be filed in court before the lab results return. In these cases, the prosecutor will disclose the blood test results during the preliminary hearing. The summons and complaint are typically mailed to defendants within 15 to 30 days after their arrests.

The preliminary hearing

The summons to appear will provide you with the court name, court date, and the time for you to appear at your preliminary hearing. This hearing gives your lawyer the chance to talk with the arresting officer and the prosecutor. In some cases, the officer might agree to withdraw the complaint or some of the charges. The preliminary hearing also gives your lawyer the chance to question the officer and other witnesses that the prosecutor might call at the hearing. The preliminary hearing is held to allow the prosecutor to present evidence establishing probable cause to believe that the DUI charges occurred. Establishing probable cause doesn’t require nearly as much evidence as what a prosecutor has to present at a jury or bench trial. If the court finds that the prosecutor has established probable cause, the case will be scheduled for further proceedings.

Attorneys may contact the police officers before the preliminary hearing to find out what the blood test results are. Many times, the police officers do not return the calls. However, if a lawyer can learn what the results are before the preliminary hearing, he or she can explain the potential penalties for the DUI offense based on the client’s BAC level. In Pennsylvania, there are three tiers for DUI offenses that are based on your BAC level. If you are convicted for a DUI offense, your breath or blood test results will determine the penalties that you will face. The highest BAC offense level or drug DUIs will carry much greater penalties than lower-level DUI offenses.

Blood test results might not be available on the date of the preliminary hearing. This can happen when the police officers send the samples to the state lab instead of a private lab for analysis. When this happens, a lawyer might ask for the preliminary hearing to be rescheduled for a later date. The attorney might try to reach the police officer before the scheduled hearing date to find out whether the blood test results are back so that he or she can request a continuance from the court if necessary.

Get help from an experienced lawyer at DiCindio Law

If you are arrested based on an officer’s suspicion that you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you should get legal help. An experienced DUI defense attorney might begin working on your case before the preliminary hearing. Depending on the facts and circumstances, it is possible for a lawyer to get the officer to withdraw the complaint before the preliminary hearing. You should not wait to contact an attorney until the complaint and summons arrive in the mail. When you do this, you prevent your lawyer from taking important initial steps in investigating your case. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation so that you can learn more about your case and what to expect by calling our firm at (630) 430-3535 or by filling out our contact form.

What does DUI per se mean?

Pennsylvania has two main categories of DUI offenses, including general impairment DUIs and per se DUIs. How the prosecutor proves a DUI case will depend on whether it is a general impairment or per se DUI. The prosecutor can secure a conviction for a per se DUI by showing that you drove with an amount of drugs or alcohol in your body that was above the legal limit. To prove a general impairment DUI, the prosecutor will need to show that the alcohol or other substances that you consumed impacted your cognitive or physical ability to drive. IF you have been charged with either a general impairment or a per se DUI offense, the legal team at DiCindio Law is prepared to help you.

Per Se DUI’s In Pennsylvania

When you drive or operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania, the legal limit for your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(2). If you drive with a BAC at this level or higher, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI. The police might ask you to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test after your arrest to determine your BAC. If it is 0.08% or higher, the prosecutor can file a per se DUI charge against you.

A prosecutor will not be required to prove that you were intoxicated or that you were impaired to prove a per se DUI. He or she will only have to prove that your BAC was 0.08% to 0.099% to convict you of the lowest level DUI charge. Pennsylvania has three per se DUI levels, including 0.08% to 0.99% for the lowest level DUI. The high BAC per se DUI can be charged if your BAC is from 0.10% to 0.159%, and the highest BAC per se DUI can be charged if your BAC is from 0.16% or higher. If you have any amount of drugs in your system, you can be charged with the highest BAC DUI offense regardless of your level of impairment.

For example, if you have a few drinks but are not impaired and are pulled over by an officer for a burned-out taillight, the officer can still charge you with a per se DUI if your BAC tests at 0.08%. This means that you could be convicted of a per se DUI and face the penalties even if your driving was not impaired.

Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Laws

Like every other state, Pennsylvania has an implied consent law that is codified at 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547. Under this law, you are deemed to have given your implied consent to submit to a chemical or breath test in Pennsylvania when you drive or operate a vehicle in the state.

If you are arrested for a suspected DUI and refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, you will face administrative penalties, including a suspension of your driver’s license for 12 to 18 months, a restoration fee ranging from $500 to $2,000, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. The length of your suspension and the size of your fine will depend on if it is your first refusal or if you have a prior DUI conviction or refusal. People who refuse a breath or blood test will also face penalties for the highest-level BAC even if their actual impairment was much lower.

How Are Impairment DUI’s Handled?

If you did not submit to a breath or blood test, the prosecutor can still try to prove that you are guilty of an impairment DUI. In this type of case, the prosecutor will focus on the officer’s observations of your behavior, speech, motor coordination, appearance, and driving. Since there is not a clear definition of what constitutes impairment, these types of DUI cases are more difficult for prosecutors to prove.

The prosecutor will have to present evidence to prove that your ability to drive was negatively impacted by the drugs or alcohol that you consumed. Some examples of the types of evidence that a prosecutor might present include the following:

  • Weaving or other erratic driving
  • Performing poorly on the field sobriety tests
  • Slurred speech
  • Watery, bloodshot eyes
  • Odor of alcohol
  • Odd behavior

Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(1), you can be convicted of a general impairment DUI if the amount of alcohol or drugs that you consumed was enough to render you incapable of safely operating or driving a motor vehicle. Beyond this description, no guidance is provided about what level of impairment is required for you to be convicted of a DUI.

Defending Against A Per Se DUI In Pennsylvania

People who are charged with per se DUI offenses in Pennsylvania are may fight their cases. In these cases, the defense will often focus on issues such as the accuracy of the testing process, the calibration of the machine, the administrator’s qualifications, the chain of custody problems, and other similar issues.

An experienced defense attorney will carefully review the data from the testing process and the records from the machine’s certifications, calibrations, and repairs. If you submitted a blood test, he or she might ask for the second vial of blood to be tested to review and compare the results. He or she might also challenge the chain of custody or how the samples were stored. A lawyer might also explain whether it is a better idea to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea offer to a lesser offense or if you should move forward to challenge the charge at a trial.

Get Help From DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with a per se DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you should retain an experienced DUI defense attorney from DiCindio Law as soon as possible. We can review the evidence in your case and explain the options that you have. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by filling out our online contact form.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Pennsylvania?

If you are facing charges for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, you might wonder how long the offense will remain on your record. A drunk driving charge is a misdemeanor criminal offense and will appear on your criminal, credit, driving, and insurance records. Criminal convictions in Pennsylvania are considered to be public records. If you are convicted of a DUI, your record will be updated in the National Driver Register with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The national credit reporting agencies will be notified and can include the information about your DUI conviction in your credit history. This means that when a potential landlord, employer, insurance company, or car rental agency asks for a credit report or background check, they will see your DUI conviction unless you are given limited access relief or have it expunged. DiCindio Law can defend against your DUI charge or help you to gain limited access relief to prevent most people from being able to see it.

Consequences of having a DUI on your record

Being convicted of a DUI means that you will face multiple penalties, including potential jail or prison time, substantial fines, alcohol classes, and others. Once you complete your sentence, a DUI conviction can cause ongoing problems in many areas of your life, including employment, housing, and insurance rates.

Many employers ask applicants to submit to background checks for employment. Some companies cannot hire workers who have prior convictions for driving under the influence, and others refuse to hire people who have DUI convictions. Employers that enter into government contracts or that have their employees drive company vehicles may be unable to hire you if you have a DUI on your record. You might also encounter problems with obtaining a professional license for jobs that require them, including real estate agents and attorneys.

Like employers, many landlords and property managers ask applicants to submit to criminal and credit background checks before they will agree to lease apartments or homes. Any type of criminal conviction on your record might cause a landlord or property manager to reject your rental application.

Having a DUI conviction on your record will cause your insurance rates to go up and can harm your ability to find affordable car insurance. Drivers in Pennsylvania who have DUI convictions on their records may have car insurance rates that are twice as much as people who do not have DUI convictions. Even if a DUI conviction was a first offense, it can continue to cause problems for you throughout your life.

Can DUIs in Pennsylvania be expunged?

Expunging a criminal conviction from your record means that it will be sealed from public and state views. DUI convictions can be expunged under limited circumstances. A DUI can be expunged if a court orders you to complete the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD program after you successfully finish it. You have to apply for acceptance by the ARD program. If you complete it successfully, your DUI will be dismissed. This means that you will not have a conviction.

If you participate in the ARD program, you may be required to perform community service and participate in a substance abuse program. If you have any victims, you will be required to pay restitution to them. While you are participating in ARD, you will be supervised in the county where your DUI happened.

Pennsylvania

A DUI that was dismissed before or after a jury or bench trial can be expunged. In 2016, a new expungement law went into effect in Pennsylvania. Under this law, you might be able to secure limited access status for your DUI conviction. A conviction for which limited access has been ordered will only be accessible by state agencies and law enforcement agencies. It will not be viewable by most employers or landlords.

How do you obtain an expungement of a DUI?

To have a DUI expunged from your record in Pennsylvania, you must meet the requirements that are outlined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122 and file a petition with the court. However, there is no guarantee that your request will be granted. DiCindio Law can work to help you to expunge your DUI from your record if you are eligible, and we can discuss other options that might be available to you if you are not eligible for an expungement.

Is it possible to get a clear driver’s license in a different state?

In the past, it was sometimes possible for people to get clear driver’s licenses by going to different states. That is no longer possible, however. The driving records for people in every state are now included in the problem driver pointer system with the NHTSA. When you try to get a driver’s license in a new state, the motor vehicle department will check the national database to see the status of your license and your driving history nationwide. If you have a conviction or have previously had your license suspended, revoked, or denied, the department of motor vehicles in a new state will see it. This means that you will not be able to get a clear driver’s license in a new state.

Get help from an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law

The only way to prevent a DUI from causing problems in your life is to avoid being convicted. You can avoid a DUI conviction by not driving your vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, people make mistakes, and you might be facing a DUI charge.

A DUI charge is not evidence and does not mean that you will be convicted or have a permanent record of conviction. If you are facing DUI charges, you should seek help from an experienced DUI defense attorney at DiCindio Law. An experienced lawyer can review the evidence to identify potential defenses that might be available and explain the options that you have. Michael DiCindio has years of experience defending against DUI charges. Contact DiCindio Law today by calling (610) 430-3535 or by filling out our contact form.